Welcome to WT VOX review of the Withings Pulse O2.
I remember the first generation of Withings Pulse with pleasure. It was able to read my heart rate, benefited from the Withings ecosystem and app, it was small but quite powerful and able to connected to other health gadgets, but it was missing a nice, stylish wristband.
And here we are again, back with some really good news. Withings Pulse has now a nice wristband along with a new firmware that allows blood oxygen reading, a redesigned app. The new device has a new name too, it is called Withings Pulse O2 (known as the Pulse Ox in the UK).
We’ve been using the Withings Pulse O2 over the last couple of weeks to see how it performs, where it thrives and whether the added feature puts it a step above its competition.
Withings Pulse O2 – Design And Specs
It might sound crazy, but Withings Pulse O2 is exactly the same tracker as the old Withings Pulse only that it can now slip into one of three new watch straps. And just exactly like the old Withings Pulse, it is not waterproof or water-resistant.
Withings Pulse O2 has three straps to choose from with a metallic cradle that holds the device in place. It reminds me the lunatik strap – my first Kickstarter adventure – I’ve got for my iPod Nano a long time ago, not very elegant when compared to Fitbit Charge for example. The cradle, the buckle and the device itself are made from black metal, but still, I am not very impressed.
Withings Pulse O2 is absolutely identical to its predecessor: a black, metallic casing, one button navigation, micro USB charging port and an optoelectronic sensor located at the back, in contact with the skin. The previous 128 x 32 OLED screen touch has remained and with that the Pulse O2 inherited the same screen visibility problems we had with the previous version.
Reading becomes very difficult if the outdoor light is t0o bright. I would have personally addressed this brightness issue before focusing on straps, but maybe that’s why I am a writer and not the CEO of Withings…
Withings added a clamping clip in the box that allows the user connect the Pulse O2 to the belt on your trousers, the pockets or on the shirt if your wrists are too busy with other gadgets. Same as with the outside, the inside of Withings Pulse O2, is identical to the original Pulse: There is an altimeter for elevation tracking, the heart rate sensor in the back and a MEMS 3-axis accelerometer. Withings Pulse O2 can monitor sleep as well.
When it comes to software, there are five “pages” to navigate through. The step counter, the time, the elevation, the distance covered, the kilocalories burned and the display for sleep tracking and heart rate data. You can go back and access 14 days worth of data. Something we liked, it allows us to display the time vertically, for a closer watch-like experience.
What this device brings new over the classic Pulse is the ability to measure blood oxygen levels. This is particularly important if you exercise a lot as lack of oxygenation can have fatal consequences. Doctors can perform this test but they would use a needle or an oximeter and this is how the Pulse O2 performs the measurement: place your finger on the HR light sensor.
A percentage of 95-100% oxygenation is considered a positive reading while lower values are indicating that you need to start training more often. Being fit correlates to the right oxygen levels. I was out of breath the other day and when I checked my blood oxygenation it was under 95%. This made me understand that I need more cardio exercises and less heavy lifting for example.
Withings Pulse O2 – Performance And Features
In order to accurately assess the elevation, the kilocalories burned and the distance I run, I decided to use my Pulse O2 in parallel with a Fitbit Charge HR. I went for a 5-mile run and I have consumed 510 kilocalories conform to Withings Pulse O2 and 514 kilocalories as per Fitbit Charge HR measurement. Not bad!
Sadly, with Withings Pulse O2, there are no ways of tracking specific activities, like cycling or powerlifting for example. For casual runners like myself the Pulse O2 is a great tool. My girlfriend calls it a posh pedometer with a few extra features. But these “few” features are what matters the most to me.
My Pulse O2 can analyse my running in real-time when I press the power button at the top of the device. I am then able to see the distance I run and the duration, which to me is a really useful feature especially for when I am not running on a treadmill.
Checking the blood oxygen level and the heart rate is a bit complicated as you have to swipe through various functions using the top button until you reach the screen with the little moon (that’s the sleep tracking) and the heart icon (pulse rate). Tap on the heart and Pulse O2 will ask you to place your finger on the four LEDs at the back of the device, which light up in red.
30 seconds later and you have your blood oxygen level and your heart rate measured. My Pulse O2 was a bit temperamental when it came to delivering the results as at times it would show just an X and sometimes it would show me just HR and not the blood level. Withing said they’re aware of the issue and a new update is in the making.
Pulse O2 is a versatile piece of hardware. It lets me monitor my sleep patterns along with my daily activity as well. To track your sleep pattern, you must have the device on your wrist. Tap on the moon and slide to start the sleep monitoring and then do the same when you wake up.
The collected data is delivered as a breakdown of the night in terms of time spent in bed, sleep duration, how many times you have woken up, the light sleep, the deep sleep and so on.
Withings Pulse O2 Software – Health Mate app
Health Mate is in my opinion one of the best fitness apps I’ve used to date. There is a lot of data to assimilate but luckily, the information is never overwhelming. Also, the app has daily roundups available if you want to access your data in detail.
The same like Jawbone app, if you need motivation, the Health Mate app can team you up with your friends and from there you challenge them to various activities. The results of these contest are then nicely presented in a leaderboard and based on your results you’ll be collecting activity badges and virtual milestones.
Health Mate app is a fantastic platform, especially when linked to third party apps like MyFitnessPal that lets you monitor your nutrition vs physical activity.
Withings Pulse O2 – Battery Life And Price
The fact that Pulse O2 has a “not always-on display”, this device goes up for two weeks in battery life and this is a great achievement in a world where most fitness trackers struggle to get past a week of usage. When the battery goes low, the device goes on a power saving mode that gives you extra 24 hours to find a charging cable – it works with any micro USB cable.
I am charging mine with the cable from my Samsung Galaxy S6 for example. While in “power saving more” Pulse O2 still uploads the tracked data but you will not be able to view it on the tracker itself.
After using it for 2 weeks non stop I can definitely say that Pulse 02 offers good value for money and I am quite pleased to see Withings trying to pack even more innovative features into such a small casing. I can only hope that the third generation will come up with a more fashionable smartband as we are in the middle of a Fashion Tech revolution.
Withings Pulse O2 – Conclusion And Verdict
Withings Pulse O2 is a small and simple yet sophisticated tracker for fitness and health monitoring. It is versatile when it comes to wearing options and it does everything I would expect from a good activity tracker do, from monitoring sleep to heart rate and from counting steps to distance.
Overall the Withings Pulse O2 is a great activity tracker for its price tag. It is unlikely you’ll buy it for its oxygen feature alone but if we couple all its other functions I mentioned above – including the altimeter for elevation and great accompanying app – we get a cracking device that won’t disappoint those who run or walk as their primary activity.
And finally, if you own one of last year’s Withings Pulse pedometers, I have some great news: install the latest firmware update, buy one of the new wristbands – which will only cost you $10 directly from Withings – and you’ll have everything the new Pulse O2 offers so no need to go and buy the new version.
- Clever design
- Accurate step counting
- Great app
- Insightful sleep data
- Not the best screen in bright daylight
- Heart rate and blood oxygen level not accurate
- Not water-resistant